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The old Kmart site in south Minneapolis will eventually be transformed into a high-density mix of homes and businesses with public gathering spaces and a reconnected Nicollet Avenue.

But first, city officials and community leaders want the public's help deciding what the redevelopment of the 10-acre site should look like and which amenities are the biggest priority. More than 15,000 people already have weighed in through previous surveys and events.

Tuesday, residents are invited to an open house in the parking lot where the team working to reconnect Nicollet Avenue between Lake Street and the Midtown Greenway plan to paint outlines of the different roadway options under consideration for the new street.

"People will be able to see how it feels and get a more direct sense of the scale," said Kaley Brown, executive director of the Whittier Alliance neighborhood group. "I think it is going to be a very cool event."

There will be concept drawings and artist renderings of four different options for design of the roadway and three different proposals for public spaces at the site. City officials say residents' feedback will help determine the best design concepts.

"We are certainly hearing a lot from people. This is the fun part where we get to go and show them something and get their reactions and see what resonates and what doesn't," said Kelsey Fogt, a Minneapolis transportation planner.

The open house for what Minneapolis is calling the New Nicollet Redevelopment Project is 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10. People can also offer their thoughts via a survey on the city's website.

The open house is billed as a "fun and family-friendly" event with free tacos. If there is inclement weather it will be rescheduled to Wednesday, Oct. 11.

Other goals for the redevelopment include affordable housing, room for community businesses, better access to the Midtown Greenway and a public art display. The final concept for the roadway and public spaces is expected to be considered by the mayor and city council in early 2024.

The roadway to reconnect Nicollet Avenue, including the likely replacement of the bridge over the Midtown Greenway, is expected to cost about $18 million, Fogt said.

Kmart site history

Kmart opened on the site in 1978 and was part of a revitalization effort for the Nicollet Avenue and Lake Street area. The decision to build the store blocking the street has been controversial ever since.

In 2020, Minneapolis agreed to pay $9.1 million to buy out Kmart's lease and move forward with plans to demolish the building. The planning process has been time consuming, but the structure is expected to be razed next spring.

That's just the first step in what is expected to be a years-long project. Construction on the roadway to reconnect Nicollet Avenue will likely begin in 2025 and other development is not anticipated until 2027.

Brown acknowledged the long timeline and says neighbors are pleased the city is being diligent with the reconstruction plans. "This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, to be able to reimagine 10 acres in the urban core," Brown said.